In addition to the Words of Joseph Smith, The Teachings of Joseph Smith, and other primary sources such as those found in The Joseph Smith Papers, Bushman's chef d'oeuvre provides keen insights, faithful reflections, and intimate details of the life of this great man and prophet of God. Bushman paints a vivid picture of early 19th century America, including the social and cultural forces that contributed to the forging of Joseph Smith's character, as well as the characters of his entourage.
Bushman pulls no punches. From Joseph Smith's charisma to his seemingly angry outbursts, from his deep love for Emma to his adherence to the revealed principle of plural marriage, from acts of courage and bravery to moments of weakness and confession, this book does not shy away from historical realities.
Although many of the stories were familiar, I came away with an increased appreciation for the manner in which the Lord shaped and molded his servant Joseph Smith. The masterful way in which Bushman organized the historical context around the Prophet's words and deeds allows room for interpretation as well as room for the Prophet's voice to be heard.
I particularly enjoyed the early chapter on the Book of Mormon, the later chapter on the King Follett discourse, and the accurate description of the events that lead up to the the Prophet's martyrdom. In light of John Taylor's tribute to Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum that is now canonized in the 135th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, Rough Stone Rolling reveals how an imperfect person can live great and die great in the eyes of God.
I highly recommend this book to all who have not read it, and I re-recommend it to those who have. There are at least two lives that I will not cease to study and to learn from in my continuing quest to know and love God more fully, namely the life of Christ and the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Rough Stone Rolling has increased my appreciation for both.